It’s time they talk with the people
We should go down to the grassroots of our culture, not to remain there, not to be isolated there, but to draw strength and substance therefrom, and with whatever additional sources of strength and material we acquire, proceed to set up a new form of society raised to the level of human progress.
–– Sekou Toure
Abraham Lincoln once said: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
Put into a Barbadian context, and against the background of several recent discussions, one can safely argue that the Barbadian people appear for the most part to have been brushed aside by the practices of the incumbent Government. Bajans are not foolish. Rather, the maturing discernment of the Barbadian people has served to be a pillar for our democracy, civility, and sense of national achievement.
On the face of it, these ought to be more reasons that in our 50th anniversary of Independence, the political machinery must have the confidence to speak squarely and honestly with the people. At this time, the efforts from the Government are too shallow and largely discordant.
Furthermore, we must spare a thought that “a politics which does not consider human nature can only be a very partial politics”. Neither the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) nor the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) ought to take the myopic stance that they are representatives of the people, and that by such a pronouncement, they have the leeway to make decisions for the people without engaging them so to do.
It is a 21st century absurdity, more so, that a loud and growing majority are not singing the same tune as the Government nor are in synch with all of its policy deliverables.
Beyond myopia, it is reasonable to assume that human agency will always be a significant factor in the construction of the Barbados that we can comfortably live in. As a people, we have long prided ourselves as forming the most important national resource in our development project. Human capital ought never to be pushed aside.
Too often, persons miss important cues that are fluctuating between the politicians’ perceptions and the people’s realities. The question then is whether the governing authorities in Barbados are conveying satisfactory responses to the crises that have been seemingly springing up daily in Barbados.
Everything can be captured in crises of economy and crises of society, but that may be too broad a brush for painting a picture clear for everyone to see. Mindful that for this writer “crisis means indecision”, which is accompanied by severe disruption leading to chaos within the processes of national governance, the sentiment would logically point to individual components or factors which then appear more damaging, given the complexity and aggregate of the indecisions.
So that today in Barbados, there is deep uncertainty across almost every single ministry, particularly regarding the Government’s treatment of the plight of people, poverty and indigence, unemployment, and the pronounced incivility that is eventuating in criminal activities. It has to be very concerning that young people are seemingly more distraught by their circumstances and lack of work and/or study opportunities than at any other time in post-1966 Barbados.
Damaging is the DLP pack that prefers self-stroking to self-censorship. Listening to statements emerging from the fold of the DLP, one hears the practised taunts which come in the form of dismissal to critique, while smirking at the political amusement it craves. Perhaps such airy pomp and posturing has more to do with the DLP’s own warped sense of political legitimacy as opposed to making the most out of any national trust and political capital it obtains. By virtue of the mandate given by the people in 2013, the DLP is the legitimate Government and must act in that way until the people decide otherwise through the ballot box.
Nonetheless, there are some who would strongly contend that the DLP’s ploy has worked to keep the BLP at bay. The BLP to some extent, has been its own worst enemy. Today, there are growing signs of containment and the willingness to provide Barbadians with a united and suitable alternative.
Indeed, the rolling out of a Covenant Of Hope is as nationally inspiring as it is an innovative approach to stirring hope and confidence among the Barbadian populace.
Despite the DLP’s dismal record for achieving positive outcomes in social and economic policy areas since returning to the seat of Government, as stated earlier, DLP ministers’ boasts of achievement continue unimpeded by the dismal records showing people’s realities and dissatisfaction.
Contrastingly, so far, the BLP’s successes have been tempered by distracting side shows. It is fair to say that the BLP has managed to highlight a daunting nightmare for Barbadians regarding the leadership which has been dozing while crises such as CLICO and Cahill unravel.
Indeed, there is a prevailing currency in Barbados that the political climate has become increasingly charged with the persistence of crisis conditions. Since the passing of David Thompson, Barbados’ political climate has been blanketed with machinations of political uncertainty, questions of legitimacy, claims of incompetence, and allegations of clandestine turnovers out-phased only by a propensity for the sleeping giant to wake at personal convenience instead of at the people’s calling.
Taken together, the discursive elements surrounding the gamut of problems beginning with lack-lustre leadership, and the crises of varying degrees, rage on with a bitter-sweet political pill. The evidence over the last eight years, should demand that Barbadians keep the political parties on notice.
In recent days, the unions, for example, have been demanding the resignation of a minister, while allegations of questionable practices and ministerial neglect have become prevalent. People ought to be more compelling in demanding that their concerns are heard and addressed by politicians from all sides, and without the convenience of excuses pointing at the other.
Regardless, there are few policy insights or Government statements that would suggest to Barbadians that these crises have been effectively mitigated. Hence, the real need now is for the political agents to trust the people, engage the people, and to be honest with the people.
I conclude by stating the obvious. Effective political steering of the governance ship is urgently needed in Barbados. The reluctance to reshuffle the oversized and underperforming Cabinet, or to control those whose words incite and insult more than heal or pacify are necessary things within the remit of the political leader.
The rampant lack of accountability and transparency ought to be condemned by more persons and by civil society. Regardless of what happens, the no-confidence debate,
if it does take place, may provide the answers that the general public and all interested parties need.
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a researcher and political consultant, and is an academic consultant for an international firm. Up until recently, he was editor of Caribbean Times (Antigua).